The House voted Thursday to establish formal procedures for the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s request for political help from Ukraine, passing a resolution that calls for open hearings — addressing Republican criticism that the Democratic probe thus far has been conducted behind closed doors.
“The next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings where the American people will learn firsthand about the president’s misconduct,” the heads of the four House committees conducting the inquiry said in a joint statement.
But the public hearings won’t begin just yet. Next week the House is going on its fall recess and won’t be back in session until Nov. 12, which would be the earliest date the inquiry could resume.
More than a dozen current and former administration officials have testified in the inquiry so far, and many of those, as well as others, could be called back to appear in an open hearing.
Meanwhile, four new witnesses are expected to testify in a closed session on Monday:
• John Eisenberg, Trump’s deputy counsel for national security affairs and legal adviser to the National Security Council;
• Robert Blair, senior adviser to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney;
• Michael Ellis, senior associate counsel and deputy legal adviser to the National Security Council; and
• Brian McCormack, associate director for natural resources, energy and science in the Office of Management and Budget.
Eisenberg is the lawyer who allegedly suggested placing transcripts of Trump’s controversial calls with Ukrainian officials on a top-secret server.
House investigators have also asked John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, to testify next week, but they may have to compel him with a subpoena. (Bolton’s lawyer told the New York Times that his client is “not willing to appear voluntarily,” but declined to say what he would do if he’s subpoenaed.)
And while the votes on the impeachment resolution were being cast, Tim Morrison, who resigned yesterday from his post as the National Security Council’s director for Europe and Russia, testified behind closed doors.
According to multiple reports, Morrison corroborated last week’s damning testimony from Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who said Trump gave the order to withhold security aid from Ukraine until it agreed to launch a public investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and supposed Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
But Morrison reportedly also said he did not view the pressure Trump applied on Ukraine as illegal.
After public hearings, most political observers expect the Democrat-led House to draft articles of impeachment and ultimately vote to impeach the president, leading to a trial in the Senate. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cautioned that no decision has been made.
“As the inquiry proceeds, we’ll decide whether we’ll go forward with impeachment,” she said. “That decision has not yet been made.”
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